To my youngest daughter, for Mother’s Day,
Have I ever told you that I consider Mother’s Day a celebration of you more than me? When your older sister was made for heaven, and not for earth—taken there, graciously, before she was even born—I knew how dear to me were all the children God would see fit to give. I knew that it is a child who makes a mom.
My mother’s day is a celebration of you and her, probably more than it is a celebration of me. And this open letter is to you, my daughter on earth—supremely, to celebrate grace. Our lives have become meddled and interconnected (meaning, you’re stuck with me). You’ve come into my mind and heart, even after being born from me, to the extent that my theology has been improved by way of you, my God-image-bearing daughter.
Children make a mom in more ways than one.
You don’t remember being born, but I do—the moment you cried, alive, and were placed on me. How I wanted to sweep you up and swell your life with everything good; how fragile and resilient you were in one—facing this new place with high-pitched triumph, but all in need.
I knew that you were a sinner by nature—though not yet by choice and, in that limited sense, pure. I yearned to have no responsibility for influentially introducing you toward sin—and I still do. Before you were born, I was far into the mindset of being cautious with what I watched on TV, but you admitted me into this new, more brilliantly holy sense of God’s purity. I still see dimly; this I know. But those precious, new-to-the-world ears receiving blares of commercials’ gratuitous gunshots and screams, senselessly foul language, slanderous shouts, and far-less-than-holy conduct—even once—it couldn’t be. You and that couldn’t rightly co-exist. So how could I? I’ve become more careful than careful with what I watch. Your newborn-ness pealed away another layer, to better purity. Thank you.
Let’s move forward in time, because you’ve grown a bit now, and I need to cover two years in one letter; that’s how old you are soon—two. As I type, you’re playing rapid keys on the piano and will soon discover the puzzles that I set out—I’m fairly sure. But you don’t understand yet what I see laid into you. It has been swift that this woeful knowledge of evil bubbled to the top; the Bible tell us it’s always been there. To you, to your person, this knowledge is an ornery enemy, a dense shadow. I see that it’s too heavy for you! That you can’t shake it off yourself—that I can’t either. That it means you need my help and compassion, as co-sojourners. That I want to afford to you all possible holiness; however can I?
Jesus, only Jesus, can make you (and me) better.
For how long have I seen the great compassion in God’s command—don’t eat from that tree? I certainly do now. It won’t go well if you do. You won’t have Me in the same way—that is, until the sacrificing, serpent-crushing, righteousness-depositing Savior comes, and then, by grace, we can have him better. God wanted all for us, and we as mankind grimace—without his aid—that he gave that command at all. That he set us up—that he could have done better by us, we think.
No, he wanted to hold us back from the mass of it. And now, since that heavy knowledge crushed us back to dust, he came to be crushed.
Daughter, friend, I give you the same speech over and over. Don’t obey mom because she’s perfect or deserving, but because it’s what God wants to work into our hearts; as it’s too hard for you, ask Jesus to help you.Yes, God has instructed you to obey me, but it’s not for me—we sponsor exactly no showdowns in this family of the wills against each other. Know this—I seek to point to what’s best and what’s most glorious, for you.
My aim is to serve as a transparent facilitator through whom you can see to God. By through, I mean that I pray with all my might and usually without being able to find words—as straight through as possible. He’s better—look to Him, look up. Look to him for his penal substitutionary atonement so that you can trust as you surrender your life to his ways and see yourself reborn in him; he’s good. But you’re only almost-two. And we’re still laying theological groundwork.
We’re all babies in God—you and me, and everyone you know or will know; the apostle Paul speaks about becoming mature in Christ—but it’s all relative to the grace and sight we can have here. When I look at you, I see me all along the way—I cannot right now imagine his presence or glory any more than I think you can comprehend penal substitution. (Thank goodness I have been here about 28 more years than you and can manage to afford you more than what you have.) We’re fragile in sin, daughter—but while we were weak, that’s when he did for sinners what he did.
I am afraid this Mother’s Day letter had to take a rather un-celebratory route; but here it is—the triumph. Celebrate this: the God who said that when sinners were sinning, he longed to be a “mother” to them. Grace upon grace—Mother’s Day is all about grace upon grace, as I conceive of it.
Every smile of yours—especially the running, lifting, twirling, no-one-else-around-in-the-world ones—a sample of the grace of God. But your cries too—oh, how much God wants to give us, how pleased he is to do so. And when the knowledge of evil seems especially hard for you—that curtain he tore in two, the glory-light he made to shine through it, and the eternal levity from sin he gives. I didn’t deserve you, but he gave me you; you’re simply a joy, and he’s making me with you. Run to him.
Happiest of Mother’s Days to you—you and your sister have made mine, by his grace.